I&J convened

Published on
September 26, 2016

Cross-border Content Removal Requests

On September 22-23, Internet & Jurisdiction convened a meeting of its global policy network in Paris, France on the topic of cross-border content removal requests. This event was part of the preparatory process for the Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference, to be convened in November 2016, and Workstream II on Content & Jurisdiction in particular.

The status quo is not enough—not in terms of redress, transparency, or existing mechanisms.

The cross-border nature of the Internet makes user-generated content globally available by default, yet content legal in one country may be illegal or even criminal in another. National procedures struggle with content removal on the Internet—especially when users, Internet platforms, servers, and technical operators are located in multiple jurisdictions. Meanwhile, intermediaries both large and small increasingly receive content removal requests from courts, public authorities, and users in potentially 190+ different countries.

Should we be against public-private agreements, or accept the trend towards voluntary cooperation? Perhaps we can do both things: be very firm on principles, while at the same time help improve procedures.

Approaches to Content Takedown Discussed

Approaches to content takedowns discussed included bilateral interactions between governments and companies, efforts by the European Commission regarding hate speech, Europol's Internet Referral Unit "to combat terrorist and violent extremist propaganda," the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts on Internet Intermediaries (MSI-NET) working group, and the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.

Transparency is crucial from a company perspective. We all need to know what content removal requests address, why, and how.

Other issues addressed by participants included the use of automated content identification mechanisms, the notion of "super-flaggers" or trusted notifiers, and the importance of authentication and transparency in such processes to verify the legitimacy of requests. The notion of formal standards for cross-border content takedown requests was well-received as a means of reducing liability, ensuring due process, and creating an accountability feedback loop that might not otherwise exist with informal processes. 

There is now a broad understanding among stakeholders that innovative transnational mechanisms and policy standards are needed to address cross-border challenges regarding content moderation and takedown.